22 Jump Street

Directed By: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Peter Stormare, Ice Cube, Nick Offerman, Dave Franco, and Rob Riggle

Channing Tatum has been in entertainment headlines quite a bit lately.  With his miscasting as Gambit in future X-Men films, the unfortunate prospect of a sequel to the completely unnecessary Magic Mike, and the surprise delay in the release of the Wachowskis' Jupiter Ascending, it suffices to say that there's a lot happening with regard to Tatum's career right now.  Jonah Hill has been equally as prominent, but clearly in a much better way.  Kicking off the year with an Oscar nomination for his performance in The Wolf of Wall Street and appearing in The Lego Movie and How to Train Your Dragon 2, Hill has certainly been no slouch.  This weekend, they're coming back together again as Brad and Doug McQuaid in their follow-up to the 2012 hit 21 Jump Street.  Ladies and gents, 22 Jump Street has arrived.

Thanks to their success going back to high school, Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) continue to work in the 21 Jump Street program.  Since the original owners of the church at which 21 Jump Street was headquartered have repurchased it, the program has moved across the street to a larger church at 22 Jump Street.  Schmidt and Jenko have essentially gone from Korean Jesus to Vietnamese Jesus.  After failing to catch a drug dealer named Ghost (Peter Stormare), the bromantic duo is ordered by Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) to do exactly the same thing that worked in high school.  Under the supervision of Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), these cops are going to college at MC State where they'll be investigating a deadly new drug that recently killed a student named Cynthia, WHYPHY (Work Hard?  Yes.  Play Hard?  Yes.).

College proves to be a little different for Schmidt and Jenko.  No longer the life of the party, Schmidt finds a little love via some slam poetry with a student named Maya (Amber Stevens).  No longer a social pariah, Jenko makes some new friends in football players Zook (Wyatt Russell) and Rooster (Jimmy Tatro).  These two students see Jenko's potential on the field as a wide receiver and off the field as their fraternity brother and encourage him to join them.  As Schmidt and Jenko immerse themselves in their undercover lives, they begin to grow apart.  Friction in their relationship ensues.  As they quarrel over every little thing, however, they stumble on the WHYPHY case.  They run with the first clue they uncover and miss plenty of other obvious details about the case, wasting their time and the department's investment in the 22 Jump Street program.

Bromance is alive and well in Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's 22 Jump Street.  Because of this, there's a strange duality in my thoughts on this sequel comedy.  At times, Lord and Miller offer some of the funniest, laugh-out-loud moments of the year (primarily courtesy of Ice Cube).  At others, however, their emphasis on this bromance between star-crossed actors Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum proves to be anything but a comedic gold mine.  I understand that Lord and Miller want a relationship with friction between Tatum and Hill, but it's not fire.  There's entirely too much sappy dialogue satirizing relationship breakups and makeups.  On top of this, there are entirely too many overt, cheesy references to sex and phallic symbols.  Because the bromance and sex jokes are overkill, 22 Jump Street not only misses the chance to outdo its predecessor but also to join the pantheon of great comedies.

We get a mixed bag of performances.  When apart from his bromantic interest Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill delivers quite a few laughs as Schmidt.  Whether dishing out his rather insane version of slam poetry or taking the infamous walk of shame, he's a delight in his solo moments on screen.  For his part as Jenko on the other hand, Channing Tatum drops the ball.  Playing the dumb jock with half a brain, Tatum seemingly lives it up as the 30 year-old frat boy.  It's just too bad that his fun on screen mostly doesn't translate to humor for us.  Last, but by all means not least, we have Ice Cube reprising his role as Captain Dickson. All I can say is that this man is to comedy what fuel is to an engine.  Every time he's on screen, he kicks this comedic rollercoaster into another gear and delivers some deep gut-wrenching laughs.  You can’t help but love the fact that he's always angry and endlessly talking trash.

It's clear I have mixed feelings on 22 Jump Street.  On the whole, however, it's a fun romp.  Going into the film, I was looking for some great comedy, and 22 Jump Street delivers this, even if unevenly so.  Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's latest flick gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a few rounds of beer with this one.